News Scan for Oct 13, 2015

Saudi MERS case, Korea quarantine
Listeria in caramel apples
High-dose flu vaccine in elderly

Saudi Arabia reports new MERS case; 61 in Korea quarantined

For the fourth day in a row Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health (MOH) has reported a MERS-CoV infection in a foreign woman in her 20s in Riyadh who is not a healthcare worker, while South Korea has quarantined 61 people after a man tested positive for the virus days after he had recovered from the disease.

Today's MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) case in Riyadh involves a 23-year-old woman hospitalized in stable condition, the MOH reported today. She is listed as a contact of a previous MERS case. The previous cases were in two 26-year-old women and a 27-year-old woman, one of whom was also a contact of a previous case.

The new cases bring the country's MERS total since 2012 to 1,255 cases, 539 of which have been fatal.
Oct 13 Saudi MOH statement

South Korea's Health Ministry, meanwhile, has quarantined 61 close contacts of the 35-year-old man in Seoul whose relapse was announced yesterday, The Korea Herald reported today.

The group includes family members, hospital patients and their guardians, and health professionals. Medical professionals and government officials said the chance of contacts contracting the disease is "very low," the story said.

"It seems like a very small amount of the virus particles that had been incubating inside the patient’s body has been detected," said Kim Ik-joong, MD, from the Seoul National University Hospital. 

In other MERS news, World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl tweeted today that a Saudi man in the Philippines who recently died of a suspected MERS-CoV infection tested negative for the disease.
Oct 13 Korea Herald story
Gregory Hartl's Twitter feed


Study shows stick puncture may spur Listeria in caramel apples

A study in mBio today that was spurred by a 2014 outbreak of listeriosis in caramel apples found that the act of puncturing the apple with a dipping stick produces conditions favorable for growing Listeria monocytogenes, especially at room temperature.

University of Wisconsin researchers swabbed four outbreak L monocytogenes strains onto Granny Smith apples, inserted wooden dipping sticks through half the apples, then dipped them all in hot caramel and allowed them to cool. They then stored the apples at either 25°C (77°F) or 7°C (44.6°F) for up to 4 weeks.

The team found Listeria increased 1,000-fold on caramel apples with sticks stored at room temperature for 3 days, but Listeria growth was delayed on apples without sticks at the same temperature. Refrigeration substantially slowed the growth of the bacteria, but refrigerated apples with sticks had some growth after 1 week that continued for the next 3 weeks, while those without stick had no Listeria growth in the 4 weeks of cold storage.

Dipping the apples in hot caramel killed off much of the surface bacteria, said lead author Kathleen Glass, PhD, in a news release by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which publishes mBio. "But those that still survived were the ones that were able to grow. If someone ate those apples fresh, they probably would not get sick. But because caramel-dipped apples are typically set out at room temperature for multiple days, maybe up to 2 weeks, it is enough time for the bacteria to grow."

The authors conclude that Listeria growth was likely accelerated by apple juice caused by the puncture to pool underneath the caramel, creating a favorable environment. Caramel and apples by themselves are not good substances for promoting bacterial growth. Possible solutions to the problem include disinfection of the apple, adding growth inhibitors, or employee temperature controls, they write.
Oct 13 mBio study
Oct 13 ASM news release


High-dose flu vaccine might give older people more protection

The high-dose version of the flu vaccine might offer nursing home residents slightly higher protection from hospitalization during the flu season, researchers reported late last week at IDWeek in San Diego.

US and Canadian investigators studied data on more than 50,000 people 65 years old and older from 823 nursing homes in 38 states, according to an Oct 10 press release from University Hospitals Case Medical Center. The residents were given either the standard or high-dose flu shot from November 2013 to March 2014.

Hospital admission rates were 20.9% for the standard-shot group and 19.7% for the high-dose recipients.

"If given to all approximately 1.5 million nursing home residents, a [1-percentage-point] drop in hospitalizations would translate to thousands fewer being hospitalized," said Stefan Gravenstein, MD, MPH, lead author of the study,  and director of the Center for Geriatrics and Palliative Care at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
Oct 10 University Hospitals Case Medical Center news release

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